At the Heart of a Siege: The Voice of Women

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The blockade on Gaza Strip has been called the “longest in history”, and it has been almost seven years that the Palestinians have been suffocating by the Israeli embargo. While the Occupation is cunningly imposing collective punishment on the Palestinian people, the resistance keeps on the track more powerfully than ever. These people have shown they are not doomed to oblivion, never, ever. The series “At the Heart of a Siege” deals with the issue of Gaza Siege from new angles most of which have not been dealt with so far. In “The Voice of Women”, we come across a new generation of Palestinian women who actively participate in media affairs and come up with innovative ways of expressing themselves and the problems of the nation.

TIME CODE: 00:00_04:53

Narration: The Gaza Strip has been suffering crisis and hard humanitarian circumstances because of the Israeli occupation through the past seven years. Israel started two wars on Gaza that resulted on destroying the infrastructure and ruined most fields. Israel has been imposing a siege on the strip for more than 7 years in addition to blocking the crossings and preventing people from traveling. Palestinian women played a significant role in highlighting those issues in media.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Ahmad Abu Said, Dean at Faculty of Media at Al-Aqsa University: “This indicates that the Palestinian society is developed and knows the importance of Media. It was introduced to it in a miserable condition, as Israel is imposing a blockade and encroaching the Palestinians. Therefore, there must be a Palestinian reaction to document this situation. So, the Palestinians media was the first to play the role in this field by graduating a Palestinian generation that is aware of what happens.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Israa Elbuhaisi, TV Correspondent: Practically, the beginning of journalism and production companies in the Gaza Strip witnessed a difficulty in women engagement. I can say that I lived two eras. The first was at the age of 16, which was too early and media was not developed. After that, people got used to intensive presence of media, women working there, and partnership between both genders. Why did it become normal? It was because the society realized that media is the base in the life of a society like Palestinians. We are the owners of a cause. This cause is only expressed to the whole world through media.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Ahmad Abu Said, Dean at Faculty of Media at Al-Aqsa University: We started with the number of 100 then 200 after few years. The number was constant for 4-5 years until, 3 years ago, there were 650 students. Now there are 1100 students enrolled in the faculty of journalism. The female students were forming 50% of the total number in the past years. However, it became 60-62%, and the rest are male students.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Sharif Al- Nairab, Palestinian Journalist Syndicate: We receive applications of joining the Journalists’ Syndicate every day, specially of female journalism graduates. Female members of the syndicate are nearly 30% in whole Palestine and 25% in Gaza. This number is a good one for them as females.”

Narration: Arab women in general suffer, in an eastern society from some traditions and beliefs that prevents them from working I certain careers, one of these careers is media and journalism, however, Palestinian women In particular are distinguished with making some breakthroughs, they achieved tangible success in careers related to radio and television in general, either as camerawomen, video editors, producers, directors or anchors.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Eman Abu Meddein, Mass Communication Student: “We as journalists are capable of delivering our message to the world through the culture and the mind energy we have. This happens through what happens around us and what we live. The University of Palestine has more than one major of media. There is public relations, interpretation, electronic journalism, and radio and television. This way, students has the option to choose one of these majors with what suits their environment and interests.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Abeer Alshurafa, Mass Communication Student: When I first studied media, I knew that I would have to go out many times, and there are some surprising things that may happen. Especially that here in the Gaza strip, there may suddenly happen bombing, or breaking into the strip or something like that. I know that my work requires that I be ready any time.”

TIME CODE: 04:53_10:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Hassan Alkashif, Journalist: “No doubt the female journalist students in the Gaza strip could get the respect and admiration of the society and its support in different ways, this includes Families and other parts of society. For female journalists, their career is respected among society and is not similar to any other career.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Doaa Muslih, Radio Anchor: “This is a full-time job that requires time and effort. I use my time here to produce some dramas that embody the reality we live and some social series. These series may be comedies or patriotic.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Israa Elbuhaisi, TV Correspondent: “It’s hard for a woman to work in this field, especially in a country that lives many proceedings and a conservative society. The beginning was hard, but at the end I proved myself and success. I proved to others that what I’m doing is a patriotic duty. Practically, if I could manage work and home together, I can be successful in both. However, managing both comes at the expenses of my comfort and psychological relief and even sleep hours.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Samar Abu Alouf, Photographer: “Photography is maybe one of the most difficult media arts. That’s because a woman is carrying her camera and taking photos like what other male journalists do. She exerts efforts and try to be the number one. Thus, the way society looks at this was harsh at the beginning; they didn’t accept that. But we overcame that now and they started facilitating the female journalist’s mission and providing support. Some people knew my name and miss me, especially during the clashes of East Jabalia as I was the only female shooting there. They’re contacting me on facebook and asking me when is my visit. They also offer help in case I can’t go there.At the beginning of my career, the first challenge was my father, brothers, and my husband inquiring about what I’m doing. I was able to prove myself and make them change their attitude. The pressure was big, that I was a mother and studying and working the same time. I had to manage these things without losing any of the three sides.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Doaa Muslih, Radio Anchor: “I was living hard circumstances lately because I was doing my master’s. That made me leave home for longs hours, sometimes 12 hours. For sure that affected me psychologically and physically. It also influenced my family including my daughter and husband and my social life.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Israa Elbuhaisi, TV Correspondent: “Nowadays, there is great development of the society’s attitude to a female journalist. It became the opposite as they would help and excuse her when she’s late for home. Of course there are exceptions. However, essentially, a successful female journalist takes care of herself and takes the society’s traditions into consideration. This way, she will be respected as I experienced.”

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Doaa Muslih, Radio Anchor: “One of the tiring things is that I’m pregnant and about to deliver a baby. It’s possible to have the delivery symptoms any moment, but I’m still working. Despite of everything, I’m happy that I’m working in my field and serving my nation and society. It’s a national duty I should do.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Samar Abu Alouf, Photographer: “My first experience in war covering was disastrous and sad because it was hard to see casualties and martyrs of your nation. However, it was a big challenge for me that I could prove myself in the field. Other journalists were helpful as I was moving with them in their vehicles. We used to move together whenever there was bombing or shelling to the location. I challenged myself to hold out in front of the tears of martyrs’ families and the fragments of children bodies. Similar things happened during the funeral of Al-Dahdouh children. I fainted after trying to touch their dead bodies. As a mother, I was strongly affected and then I got over it.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Doaa Muslih, Radio Anchor: “We experience exceptional circumstances in Gaza. Anytime, Israeli forces may break into the strip or bomb it. We may have clashes with the army. So, I need to be ready and present anytime- ready to leave home to work to cover the news. This requires effort and time of what I save for my family.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Asmaa Al-Wadia, News Anchor at Palestine TV: I have just graduated from university, and I started working before that. I was working at more than one place. I was an announcer in addition to other things. Besides that, I was a student and had a life. Society is divided into categories according to people’s attitude to “a working woman” in general, and a female journalist in particular. For example, some people are open-minded and respect female journalists because their job is tiring. They have enough of work pressure, are in front of the camera and under different kinds of pressure. Some other people have another viewpoint: a woman cannot appear on T.V as an announcer in an Eastern conservative Arab society. She cannot get dressed in certain ways and cannot be on T.V from the first place.”

Narration: The women’s affair center in the Gaza strip, is concerned with media, it has a unit for television production and documentary movies, many young Palestinian women start their careers from this place, the center organizes media courses regularly to improve the skills of the trainees, so they would become able to walk in this field.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Itimad Washah, Video Program Coordinator: “The Women’s Affairs center has started training since 1995. The beginning was by a Canadian producer who trained a group of 15 girls. It was for a year and a half on documentary production. However, the actual beginning was by the renovation the center implemented for the strategic planning. We started a 200-hour training course for some young women who wanted to learn production, shooting and montage. Our first experience included 12 young women, then the next year the number increased to be 20. Then the year after, the applications were about 100 application so that we started holding exams for acceptance, then other exams for the candidates. We would also select the best trainees and the ones we feel they would carry on in this field.”

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Aida Al-Rawagh, Filmmaker: I chose to join the Women’s Affairs Center by a recommendation of a friend. I was recommended to join it to grow the talent I already have, which is production and television. I went there and registered for training courses for a year and a half. Then, at the end of this year, a movie was produced, or it was a documentary that was done as a production experience.”

Narration: Here is a group of young women were being trained on many kinds of television skills like voice, filming, lighting, and production.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Reema Mahmoud, Fimmaker: “We asked the center to hold these courses because we needed a staff for dramas in the movie. We wanted to know how to create drama in the movie, so it was not a regular shooting. It had to be professional.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Amani Dweidar, Camerawoman: “I shoot documentaries, dramas and short movies, a drama movie titled in “Notice”, and “Roads”. And I worked on the montage of “Where are by belongings” movie.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Nelly Al-Masri, Sports Journalist: “From the first places, I grew up in a sports’ house and was brought up doing sports. My family was and is still supporting me. They are the ones who encouraged me in this field. This has made me more courageous and honest. My father, may Allah grant him health, is the one who advises me and discusses everything with me. I and my father are close friends, and I consult him regarding of everything. He tells me what to do without being persistent.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Sahar Fasfous, Filmmaker: “Actually, my family is very proud of me. I worked on the movie “hope remains a title” and won the first place, and that was the first movie I win the first place for in the Cinema and Art production festival. Since that, everyone started supporting me and telling me what to do. They gave me the choice to go anywhere.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Israa Elbuhaisi, TV Correspondent: “There's a story for my journey. Leaving home to office means traveling from East the strip to the West. This path was a minefield for me. As soon as I reach my office, I go on air and report news happened on my way there. There were cars bombed on my way and citizens killed. One time, Israel hit a market on the same road (Omar al-Mukhtar Street). So, the way itself was a story for me. Leaving home and reaching office was martyrdom. Reaching office meant I had a new life. During the war, we didn’t know the source of the shelling. There was shelling by tanks, planes, and boats. That was a really wild war as the only people moving in streets were either fighters or journalists. Press men were bombed either by targeting their vehicles or their offices. We were targeted in Al-Alam channel or Media Group Company with a rocket during work. They didn’t consider the existence of journalists in the place though there were press signs like “T.V. Press”.

The targets were journalists who represent media, and they wanted to silence us. Personally speaking, that war was a media war. Massacres and the killing of the innocent wasbroadcasted live. I think that holding trails for Israeli leaders or issuing arresting warrants for them by some European courts, was motivated by media records. There were warrants of arrest or deprivation of entering some countries. These courts depended on the testimony of journalists. Thus, Israel realized how dangerous a Palestinian journalist could be and what are they capable of to highlight the Palestinian cause and suffering. And also to show that war aims at killing the innocent and not ending the resistance or terrorism as they call it. The main goal was killing Palestinians. The bombing was random and shallow. They executed massacres, used White phosphorus, and burned people. No one wasn’t targeted in the strip either directly or indirectly.”

TIME CODE: 20:00_25:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Hassan Alkashif, Journalist: “The Palestinian media is a part of the national Palestinian resistance. So, everyone is engaged in those clashes. In every Palestinian confrontation during the past 50 years, journalists were in the front with people scarifying their life. They were a target of Israeli assassinations; therefore, this is a historical evidence for the Palestinian media. Even during the last Israeli aggression on the strip, a number of journalists were targeted and murdered.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Israa Elbuhaisi, TV Correspondent: “I would say something my family may not like: I was destined to have new life twice, after the first and second wars on Gaza. If there’s a third one, I will be a martyr. I keep wondering why I’m still alive up till now. I was facing death more than one time.

It is the first time to come here after the war, those memories are ugly but the same time, make us feel how strong we are. This place was bombed, and seconds later, we came her again. Some of us refused to get down. This makes me proud of the journalists of Gaza and Palestine, proud of the cameramen and work crews. We are really strong that a rocket was shelled here directly.

We were standing here in this direction. We were shooting here with our cameras when the rocket fell here directly on this building. Of course the destruction remains are still here of what happened in the war.

Practically speaking, the moment I would leave home those days, leaving meant we were going towards death. However, when this place was hit by a drone rocket, we started waiting for the F16 to come. Actually, we turned it into a joke between us, and a good spirit. “Guys, where would the rockets come from? This direction or that one? This plane or that one?”. After all, we wanted to work and convey our message. We were scared but we controlled it and got over it. I would feel I’m on duty and asked to go out and tell the world about what happens, and shoot everything to transform the suffering of my nation. If I didn’t do this, a mother would lose her children, and a child would lose her family with no one knows about them. Another woman would suffer regardless of being a mother or a sister or a daughter. At the end, it’s a duty. It’s a testimony for every female journalist in Palestine and Gaza in particular: they are strong. We have unbelievable determination that words cannot express, but we lived that a second time during the second war. I also confirm that we’re going to live the same if there happens any aggression on Gaza. None of the female journalists would back away. We became stronger with more experience.”

Narration: Israa has worked in this field since she graduated from university, she was always in the thick of action, she was known for showing a humanitarian news features to the world, Israa has won the award for the best TV corresponded in the Islamic world

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Israa Elbuhaisi, TV Correspondent: “It was something great. I didn’t know about that contest. Those people were following up with our work and reports, and collected works of hundreds of female reporters and journalists all over the world. At the end they decided that I deserve the title of “the best female reporter in war covering in the Muslim World”. I felt it was the first reward after the war. Rewards are not necessarily money or tangible. The idea of having such a title meant that people were following up with what I was doing and appreciating that I was going to death itself for the sake of telling the world that there is a nation being killed and cleansed. There is a nation witnessing the melting of it’s people by white phosphorus in front of them. I succeeded in delivering this message, and this was what made me happy the most after the war and till now. I could deliver the message.”


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